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Visual Storytelling for Social Media

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in digital marketing, a picture can have a much more tangible value. As part of Social Media Week in Chicago, Sarah Eva Monroe, senior creative director, mStoner Inc.led a panel on utilizing imagery in social media. As we all know, images tell a story, and that image plus the story can drive social engagement. And ultimately, that engagement will bring more eyes to your brand.

Monroe focused on how each major social media channel can aid in storytelling, particularly through utilization of imagery. She noted that because the human brain can process an image much quicker than text, an image is an essential component for quick comprehension.

She shared a few key points for image selection:

  • A simple direct photo can be impactful.
  • Don’t be afraid to be funny, but research the joke to ensure you know of the context.
  • Create a sharable graphic by integrating text to imply sentiment or branding.
  • Evoke emotion though showing people interacting with the product.
  • Make sure you are using credit where credit is due if using images that you do not own.
  • When creating or choosing an image for maximum impact, keep in mind basic design principles such as the rule of thirds, creating a focal point, and lighting, contrast, and perspective.

Creating succinct content with strong imagery and design will allow for quick comprehension, even if the consumer doesn’t actually read the copy. This means that you don’t only want to focus on engagement, but also entertainment. Accounting for your audience’s persona is an important tool, and can help you choose the right venue and the right message.

Monroe also noted some best practices:

  • Consider what time of day your image would be most effective.
  • Research any memes, humor, hashtags and brands to ensure that you aren’t sending a tone-deaf message.
  • Context is important: be sure that the geography matches up, stay away from being too edgy or engaging in controversial conversations.
  • Understand the persona of your audience, including demographics, engagement history and habits, especially when using images of people.
  • Use the persona to dictate which social media networks you use.
  • Don’t be afraid to test images and build on what works.
  • The human eye is hyper-aware of a break in the norm. Make sure to use a unique image that will stand out in the crowded social space.
  • Use color theory to your advantage, prioritizing brand personality.

Monroe noted some examples for contextual media messages in the right places. For instance, Instagram can help achieve inclusiveness by confirming brand culture, and offering a “behind the scenes” look for both current and future clients. Snapchat is used effectively to promote very specific brands interested in a fast temporary message to a very specific audience. And Yelp can be used to curate experiences based on user’s storytelling.

In short, when you are using visual storytelling in social media, be deliberate. Know your audience, know your brand, and know where the busiest intersection of the two is. Create dynamic images for your social media by consciously choosing an image that will evoke the response you want from the people that you want to reach. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment with what works for your brand.

Photo by Rosana Prada via Flickr

Tags : social media

About Laura Botham

Laura Botham writes features covering the movers and shakers in the media industry, daily updates, and Top 10 lists. She is a media researcher at Cision, specializing in Internet media. She is a freelance artist, enjoys traveling, the mountains, and can always make time for a cute animal video.

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